Thursday, September 25, 2014

Utopia, Dystopia, Diaspora

As we wrap up September and move into October, the students are readings seven different books, a mix of novels and memoirs, that explore the linked themes of utopia, dystopia, and diaspora.

In planning the year, I thought a lot over the summer about journeys, a theme that was difficult to narrow. There is so much. Diaspora suggested itself: not a mere trek from one place to another, but a mass movement, a sweep across the globe of an entire people. This in turn suggested the twinned concepts of utopia, a perfect world, and dystopia, an entirely broken one.

Diaspora is often the movement from a broken world to a perfect one.

It is not that simple.

The kids are learning and communicating this by reading this series of books. Each will read at least one of the following. Some have already moved on to a second book. My hope is that, over the course of the year, a handful will read all seven.

A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
1984, George Orwell
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
The Holder of the World, Bharati Mukherjee
Utopia, Sir Thomas More
When the Emperor Was Divine, Julie Otsuka

Which of these is about utopia, which concerns dystopia, and which examines diaspora?

Some answers will seem obvious. I'll learn what the kids think over the next two weeks, when they will write and talk on all three of the following questions:
  • Defend this statement: This book engages the theme of utopia.
  • Defend this statement: This book engages the theme of dystopia.
  • Defend this statement: This book engages the theme of diaspora.
In October, we'll be planning projects and exhibitions on these themes, if not these books. Those will come to fruition in November.

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